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The Resilient Maká People – Traditional Stewards of the Forest

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The Maká is an Indigenous group that once lived in the Gran Chaco region of South America. The Gran Chaco region is a vast area of wooded plains that consists of present-day Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. The Maká people speak the Makán language which is part of the Matacoan language family. In the Makán tradition, the hawk-person has a mythical significance. It is seen as a savior-hero, as well as a bringer of culture. Traditional beliefs held that hawk-people were nature spirits whom the shaman could communicate with.

While living in the Gran Chaco region, the Maká and other groups developed a close relationship to the natural land. In particular, they gathered plants as a major source of food. The Maká also relied on local plants for medicinal purposes. For instance, a type of fern called Anemia tomentosa was crushed and mixed in water for people with a whooping cough. Other plants have been used medicinally to treat a range of illnesses ranging from toothaches, bites, and digestive upsets, to extracting thorns from the skin.

Researchers say that Paraguay’s forests are quickly disappearing, perhaps faster than anywhere else on Earth. Supreme Master Ching Hai has continuously cautioned the public about the dangers of deforestation – especially for animal-people factories. “‘More than 80% of deforestation is for livestock, for livestock grazing or livestock feeding.’ ‘The cost of deforestation is two to five trillion per year.’ ‘And cost also of water security. Forty percent of black carbon and 75% of ozone is from open fires.’ ‘A year without paper saves 8.5 trees,’ shrinkthatfootprint.com reports. ‘A year without beef saves 3,432 trees’, just for one person. ‘Deforestation caused by the beef industry is due to the large amount of land needed for grazing and feed crop production.’”

Sadly, researchers have ascertained that cattle-people ranching is the number one cause of deforestation in the Paraguayan Chaco. This has caused significant ecological consequences that include soil salinization, the formation of sand dunes, wind erosion, an increase in invasive species, a reduction of wildlife habitat and an increased risk of extinction for some endangered plants. All of these factors make it more challenging for the indigenous Maká to fully live their traditional way of life which is to be in harmony with the natural forest.
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